Monday, August 18, 2014


The period series called The Knick has had us fascinated since it premiered last week because of the Harlem Knickerbocker connection but now one character also stands out amongst the rest. Clive Owens has the acting chops here to make a commanding lead riddled with a secret addiction but it is the struggles of a new staff member that gives the show the most depth.

 Dr. Algernon Edwards is an African American surgeon who is Harvard educated but faces discrimination every corner of an unofficially segregated New York City circa 1900.  Blacks of all social classes could only live in the so-called colored neighborhood located in midtown which was known as The Tenderloin.  This was before a large migration uptown to Harlem within the next couple of decades and the show does a great job showing the day to day struggle of an educated professional in a city that was technically free to all but at the same time divided.  There are also the Irish characters and a few remote scenes in Chinatown which provides are larger look at a city that is known for its diversity but has not always been portrayed as such within period pieces similar to The Knick.


  1. It will be very interesting to see the development of the triumvirate relationship among Dr. Edwards, the southern nurse and the Irish nun and the Irish ambulance attendants. The Irish were the dominant force running hospitals, orphanages, Catholic schools and all manner of philanthropic & charitable agencies in the city in the 19th century up to the 1960's. And they weren't without their prejudices even though there was a strong anti-Irish sentiment within New York City society in the 19th century. When the first African-American student nurses came on the scene at Harlem Hospital, whose nursing department was run by a 1st generation Irish-American, the white staff members refused to work with them, many just up and quit rather than work alongside blacks. This was most profuoundly felt in 1919 during the infamous Flu epidemic. In that winter 6 African American nurses were hired to boost the staffing numbers and some white nurses and nurses aides quit. In 1925 rather than be assisted by a black student nurse a southern surgeon cancelled a patient's badly needed surgery, even referred to the student as "...some nigger nurse!" He was later fired. Many don't know that the apartment buildings bordering CCNY had a racially restrictive covenant attached by the nuns who ran a convent school which preceeded CCNY at that property.

    So this show has the potential to bring up some very interesting group and 1-on-1 dynamics that will not only entertain but enlighten as well.

  2. It was common to see "no Irish" when help wanted ads were posted just right before this time period and probably still was true in some sectors of the city by 1900.

  3. The opening pictures and scenes were very powerful for me. They all helped me to recollect visiting my grandmother and great-uncle at the Knickerbocker Hospital in the 1960's. The area rich with strong multi-dimensional individuals and experiences that are read or seen in book or museum. How very lucky I am to call this my Home Town.